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Scottish Independence: Battle of Stirling Bridge

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Scottish Independence: Battle of Stirling Bridge

Sir William Wallace

Photograph Courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Battle of Stirling Bridge - Conflict:

The Battle of Stirling Bridge was part of the First War of Scottish Independence.

Battle of Stirlin Bridge - Date:

William Wallace's forces were victorious at Stirling Bridge on September 11, 1297.

Armies & Commanders:

Scotland

England

  • John de Warenne, 7th Earl of Surrey
  • Hugh de Cressingham
  • 1,000 to 3,000 cavalry, 15,000-50,000 infantry

Battle of Stirling Bridge - Background:

In 1297, English forces under the Earl of Surrey and Hugh de Cressingham moved north put down a revolt in Scotland. Having defeated a relatively disorganized Scottish army the year before at the Battle of Dunbar, English confidence was high and Surrey was expecting a short campaign. Opposing the English was a new Scottish army led by William Wallace and Andrew de Moray. More disciplined than their predecessors, this force occupied the flat ground to the north of Stirling Bridge.

Battle of Stirling Bridge - The English Plan:

As the English approached from the south, Sir Richard Lundie, a former Scottish knight, informed Surrey about a local ford that would allow sixty horsemen to cross the river at once. After conveying this information, Lundie asked permission to take a force across the ford to flank the Scottish position. Though this request was considered by Surrey, Cressingham managed to convince him to attack directly across the bridge. As King Edward I's treasurer in Scotland, Cressingham wished to avoid the expense of prolonging the campaign and sought avoid any actions that would cause a delay.

Battle of Stirling Bridge - The Scots Victorious:

On September 11, 1297, Surrey's English and Welsh archers crossed the narrow bridge but were recalled as the earl had overslept. Later in the day, Surrey's infantry and cavalry began crossing the bridge. Watching this, Wallace and Moray restrained their troops until a sizable, but defeatable, English force had reached the north shore. When approximately 5,400 had crossed the bridge, the Scots attacked and swiftly encircled the English, gaining control of the north end of the bridge. Among those who were trapped on the north shore was Cressingham who was killed and butchered by the Scottish troops.

Unable to send sizable reinforcements across the narrow bridge, Surrey was forced to watch his entire vanguard be destroyed by Wallace and Moray's men. One English knight, Sir Marmaduke Tweng, managed to fight his way back across the bridge to the English lines. Others discarded their armor and attempted to swim back across the River Forth. Despite still having a strong force, Surrey's confidence was destroyed and he ordered the bridge destroyed before retreating south to Berwick.

Seeing Wallace's victory, the Earl of Lennox and James Stewart, the High Steward of Scotland, who been supporting the English, withdrew with their men and joined the Scottish ranks. As Surrey pulled back, Stewart successfully attacked the English supply train, hastening their retreat. By departing the area, Surrey abandoned the English garrison at Stirling Castle, which eventually surrendered to the Scots.

Battle of Stirling Bridge - Aftermath & Impact:

Scottish casualties at the Battle of Stirling Bridge were not recorded, however they are believed to have been relatively light. The only known casualty of the battle was Andrew de Moray who was injured and subsequently died of his wounds. The English lost approximately 6,000 killed and wounded. The victory at Stirling Bridge led to the ascent of William Wallace and he was named Guardian of Scotland the following March. His power was short-lived, as he was defeated by a King Edward I and a larger English army in 1298, at the Battle of Falkirk.

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